Investigators seek link in Grand Gorge fires

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By Brian Sweeney
Investigators are trying to determine if there’s a link between a Grand Gorge man arrested last week for an attempted break-in and two recent devastating fires in the hamlet.

James S. Hartley Jr., 25, was charged on Friday with third-degree criminal trespass after he allegedly tried gaining entry into the Otsego Northern Catskills BOCES early on the morning of October 14.

Delaware County Sheriff’s Department investigators allege that Mr. Hartley tripped an intrusion alarm at the BOCES complex, leading to his arrest. Roxbury Constable Steve Williamson assisted with the case.

Two major blazes
During that same morning, a fire destroyed Sundae’s, a popular eatery on Route 23 in Grand Gorge. That blaze followed a September 27 fire that swept through the Becker Tire Service building at the Route 30 entrance to the hamlet.

Delaware County Undersheriff Craig Dumond said that both fires have been deemed suspicious. The origin of a leaf fire occurring on October 16 along Intake Road, Grand Gorge is also being investigated.
The undersheriff said that determining any possible links between the fires will be a lengthy process.

“It’s a complex investigation. Sometimes it takes several weeks or months to come up with a formal conclusion,” he told the News.

Following his arrest on Friday, Mr. Hartley was arraigned in the Town of Stamford Court and remanded to the Delaware County Correctional Facility in lieu of $1,000 cash bail.  A Parole Violation Warrant was subsequently issued for Mr. Hartley by the New York State Division of Parole and lodged with the jail as a detainer.

Truck was spotted
Police from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection discovered the leaf fire last Wednesday along Intake Road. Sheriff’s Department investigators and DEP detectives are attempting to obtain information about a small pickup truck (faded black or primer gray in color) that was observed traveling in the area shortly before the fire’s discovery.

Investigators are requesting that anyone with information concerning these fires contact the Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division at 607 746-2336.
Personnel from the Delaware County Probation Department and New York State Division of Parole assisted with Mr. Hartley’s arrest.